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Biographical entry Oliver, Matthew William Baillie (1882 - 1926)

OBE 1919; MRCS Nov 8th 1906; FRCS June 11th 1914; MA MB BCh Cantab 1909; LRCP Lond 1906.

29 September 1882
10 February 1926
Ophthalmic surgeon


Born on Sept 29th, 1882, the son of the Rev Robert Oliver, of Strathwell, Whitwell, Isle of Wight, by his wife Agnes Hunter-Baillie, the great-grandniece of John Hunter. He represented the family of John and William Hunter, through whose sister Dorothea he descended. Matthew Baillie, famous in his day as an anatomist and as the leading London physician, was his great-grandfather.

Oliver entered Cheltenham College in January, 1896, and proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated BA in the Natural Science Tripos in 1903. He then entered as a student at St Bartholomew's Hospital, where, after qualifying, he served as Ophthalmic House Surgeon (1906) and as Chief Assistant in the Ophthalmic Department. For two years he held resident house appointments at St George's Hospital, to which John Hunter and Matthew Baillie had been attached, and where he was Senior House Surgeon. At this time he used his spare afternoons to serve as a Clinical Assistant at the Royal Westminster Ophthalmic Hospital. Later he became Chief Assistant in the Moorfields Eye Hospital and, as above stated, at his own old hospital. He was appointed in 1914 Assistant Ophthalmic Surgeon to the Miller Hospital, Greenwich.

During the Great War he went through nearly the whole of the arduous campaign. He was Surgical Specialist to No 15 Casualty Clearing Station, holding the temporary rank of Major RAMC and, winning the approval of the highest authorities, was mentioned in dispatches and awarded the OBE. On his return to England in 1919 he did much useful plastic work at the Queen's Hospital for Facial Injuries at Sidcup. The region of the orbit and eyelids was allotted to him, and this was one of the few subjects on which he wrote, for a knowledge of general surgery, combined with ophthalmology, was invaluable, and he took advantage of the opportunities thus afforded him.

At the time of his death he was Surgeon to the Central London Ophthalmic Hospital; Ophthalmic Surgeon to the Queen's Hospital, Sidcup, and the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital; Consulting Ophthalmic Surgeon to the Willesden Union District Council; Chief Assistant at the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital; Ophthalmic Surgeon to the Queen Mary's Auxiliary Hospital at Roehampton, and to the Italian Hospital. Much of his work was done at the Central London. At the Portsmouth Meeting of the British Medical Association in 1923 he was Hon Secretary of the Ophthalmological Section.

This bare record will reveal Oliver's energy and capacity for work; it was the same for games. At St Bartholomew's he was one of the keenest and hardest-working forwards in the Rugby Football XV. He played violent games of squash-rackets with more energy than skill, and then, after swimming a length or two of the bath, he would hurry off to some other engagement. Although just past his forty-fourth year, he continued to play golf, tennis, and squash-rackets, and to swim with enthusiasm.

Oliver was singularly kindly, cheerful, and uncomplaining. He was known to all his friends without exception as 'Bubbles'. Whatever the origin of this was, it seems to indicate that happy, friendly, fearless soul, always bubbling with energy and life.

On Feb 6th, 1926, he was playing golf and apparently in good health. He had, however, contracted a chill, and died of pneumonia at his sister's house in the country on Feb 10th. He had confessed to having strained his heart during his over-strenuous athletic career. He died unmarried and had practised at 128, Harley Street. He was a member of many clubs, including the Fountain.

"Rupture of Choroid due to Concussion by Bullet." - Trans Ophthalmol Soc, 1914, xxxiv, 193.
"Method of Making New Lower Eyelid."-Proc Roy Soc Med (Ophthalmol Sect), 1921-2, xv, 14.
"Restoration of Upper Lid in Case of Gunshot Wound." - Ibid, 23.
"Plastic Operation for Contracted Sockets." - Ibid, 1922-3, xvi, 15.
"Plastic Operations in Region of Bye." - Ibid, 1925-6, xix, 29.
"Plastic Operation on Eyelids" (Thesis) - 1922.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit Med Jour, 1926, i, 351. St Bart's Hosp Jour, 1926, xxxiii, 98].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England